Most sayings of Imam Al-Husayn (A) could not reach us. The main causes of this are the circumstances of that time. We have a huge treasure of sermons and saying of the Commander of the Faithful with us. Especially, sermons delivered by Imam Ali (A) during his apparent caliphate are precious wealth.
However, Imam al-Hasan (A) and Imam Al-Husayn (A) had to face restrictions from the rulers of their time. Especially, during the time of Imam Al-Husayn (A), Mu’awiyah had terrorized the people so much that no one dared to approach Imam Al-Husayn (A). Even if someone heard something from Imam Al-Husayn (A), he dare not quote it to others.
Even though there are not many sayings of Imam Al-Husayn (A), I have noticed a characteristic in the sayings of Imam Al-Husayn (A) during my study that the meanings of Imam Al-Husayn's (A) words are not only incomparable but basically reflect a combination of Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) soul and greatness. Each and every sentence of the Imam is full of the gems of greatness.
One statement is that which the Imam spoke during his last moments. Imam (A) displayed jewels of bravery in the battlefield and fell down injured. The holy body had already lost a lot of blood. The Imam’s soul was extremely powerful but his body had become extremely weak. He had no energy to stand up.
He could only get up on his knees with the support of his sword. The Imam did not even have the strength to stop the impure steps moving towards his holy camp. Eventually, Imam (A) stood up with a great difficulty and said aloud, “O followers of Abu Sufyanl O those who have sold their hearts! Curse be on you! Even if you don’t have a religion and fear of the Judgment Day, you should be ashamed like free people of this world.”
“I know that you don’t have any faith on God and the Judgment Day but at least, you should give way to respectability in your hearts. A respectable person, who emits the smell of respect from his body, does not act like what you are doing.”
Those oppressors asked, “O son of Fatimah! What are you saying? What have we done against liberty?” The Imam replied: “I am fighting with you and you should confront me. Why do you want to attack the women?”1
If we glance at Imam Al-Husayn’s sermons from the first one, which he delivered in Mecca till the one delivered during the journey, we find the words of Imam Al-Husayn (A) filled with respect and greatness.
Imam (A) delivered a sermon while departing from Mecca and said, “Death has left a mark on the progeny of Adam like a mark of necklace on a virgin’s neck.” He also said, “Whoever wants to give sacrifice in the way of Allah like us, whoever wants to join his voice with our voice, whoever wants to migrate in the way of Allah and meet his God should accompany us. God willing. I shall depart tomorrow.”2
Imam (A) wanted to say, “Basically, my soul does not permit me to see the mischief-filled surroundings, remain alive and become a part of it. I prefer death for myself as my well-being in such conditions. My success lies in not remaining alive among you. According to me, living with oppressors is death of the heart and disgrace of life.”3
Many people met the Imam during the journey and talked to him. Most were careless and tried to deviate others. Someone told the Imam, “Master! The times are bad. Why are you throwing yourself in the clutches of death?”4
When such a person tried to stop the Imam, he said, “My reply is same as that of a helper fighting alongside the Holy Prophet (S), which he gave to his cousin who was trying to stop him from going for battle.” Then Imam (A) quoted the verses of that helper as follows:
“I am going. Death is not a cause of disgrace for a person who has an intention of fighting in the way of right like a Muslim. Jihad is not a cause of disrespect because this is such a death that makes one meet the virtuous. It is an honour to sacrifice one’s life while fighting with the enemies of the right path. Either I would remain alive in this battle or die. If I remain alive there is no chance of being disgraced and if I die I would have no worries.”5
“It is sufficient disgrace for you that you are alive and have got an insulting defeat. I, Al-Husayn (who has been suckled by Fatimah Az-Zahra), would never bear this. I can get beheaded for the sake of an honourable life but such a life where I have to bow down has no meaning for me.”
During the journey, Imam (A) discussed with one of his companions that he preferred the life of greatness, honour and respect over a life of disgrace and said, “Don’t you see? Aren’t your eyes open? Can’t you see that the right path is not being followed? Don’t you see that mischief and misguidance is spread everywhere and there is no one to stop it? In such circumstances, it is the duty of a believer to wish for death.”6
Imam Al-Husayn (A) had inherited respectability and honesty from his father. When Imam Ali (A) got news that the forces of Mu’awiyah had increased plundering the city of Anbar and that they have snatched the earrings of a polytheist woman, the Imam said, “By Allah, if a Muslim dies hearing this news out of sadness and anger, he shall not be condemned by me.”7
Come; let us go to the Ashura day now. The lamp of Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) life was about to go out. Still, his words were pleasant. Imam (A) was still talking about honour and bravery. Here too, the center point of the Imam's conversation was Islamic character and Islamic teachings. When Ibn Ziyad’s messenger came to the Imam with a message, Imam (A) told him, “Tell your master that I would not give my hand in yours with disgrace. It is impossible that I plead like a slave and seek forgiveness that I had fallen prey to misunderstanding.”8
There is even more respect in the words of the Imam spoken while fighting his last battle. All his companions and relatives were martyred. Imam (A) could see his young son who was martyred. The arms of his brother were cut and he knew that the enemy would soon attack his camp and take his people as hostages.
Then too, he was shouting slogans in his battle about his leadership. However, the slogan was not inviting others to start obeying him. He was not asking others to consider him their master and follow him. The meaning of the Imam’s slogan was that he was a perfect leader and that his leadership did not permit him to bow down to a lowly person.
“Death is better than a life of degradation. Death is always better and more beloved than disgrace and shame. The apparent defeat in this world is better than entering hell-fire.”9
This is the meaning of greatness of the soul. This is the difference between a rich man and a respectable personality. Yes, honourable persons may be wealthy but all wealthy persons are not respectable.
Every elderly is not honourable. That is why when we stand in front of a great personality who is respected and honoured we have to say: I testify that you established the Prayer, and gave the Zakat and enjoined the good and forbid the evil.10
If we stand in front of Nadir Shah what would we say? Obviously, we would praise him and say that we testify that you went to India and destroyed it and brought the Kohinoor diamond for us from there.
However, when we stand in front of Imam Al-Husayn (A) we say, “We testify that you established prayer, paid charity and fulfilled the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil. You strengthened the relationship between a servant and his Lord through Prayer. You struggled in the way of Allah instead of in the way of this world and its wealth.
You were not that privileged one who desires property or revenge or evil or wealth. You were that privileged one who did jihad in the way of God. You had forgotten your material desires and had molded yourself in your own oven.
Its effects put an end to distance between a servant and his Lord, I testify that you have fulfilled your duty of performing jihad in the way of God as it deserved to be performed.”11
“You performed jihad but it was not for selfish desires and property or fame; it was for the sake of truth and truthfulness.”
- 1. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 51; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 503.
- 2. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 366; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 328.
- 3. Lohoof, Pg. 79.
- 4. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 238; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 358.
- 5. Imam Husayn (A) had recited these verses in reply to Hurr who was sorry for putting his life in danger.
- 6. Tarikh Tabari, Vol. 4, Pg. 305; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 381; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 213; Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 194; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 356.
- 7. Nahjul Balagha, Faizul Islam, Sermon 27, Pg. 85; Nahjul Balagha, Subhi Salih, Sermon 27; Sharh Nahjul Balagha, Ibn Abil Hadid, Vol. 2, Pg. 74.
- 8. There is slight difference between the text in Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 191 and Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 7.
- 9. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 44, Pg. 192; Mausuat al-Kalimat al-Imam al-Husayn, Pg. 499.
- 10. Mafatatih Al-Jinan, Ziarat Waritha.
- 11. Mafatatih Al-Jinan, Ziarat Waritha.